American Rookies Produce Four Different Stories

By Associated PressSeptember 22, 2006, 4:00 pm
36th Ryder Cup MatchesSTRAFFAN, Ireland -- Brett Wetterich and Vaughn Taylor can debate whether it was better to have played and lost than never to have played at all. J.J. Henry and Zach Johnson, meanwhile, both got their chance and learned what it's like to come through in the clutch at the Ryder Cup.
The four American rookies produced four different stories -- not all of them as bad as many U.S. fans might have feared -- in Friday's opening rounds.
J.J. Henry
J.J. Henry teamed with Stewart Cink to secure a half point in the morning fourball session.
Henry's tale was best. He made long birdie putts on the back nine to start a rally from 3 down and earn a tie and a half point against Paul Casey and Robert Karlsson in the morning better-ball match.
'I was determined to go out this morning and play well and prove to everybody that I belonged on this team,' said Henry, giving mention to the many who felt the 31-year-old, with one PGA Tour win, was in over his head.
He played well enough alongside Stewart Cink that by the end of the day, with the Americans trailing Europe 5-3, some were wondering why Henry wasn't in the lineup for foursomes, too.
Instead, it was Johnson who made his debut in the afternoon, teaming with Chad Campbell. Like Henry, Johnson overcame a rough start to help his team pull out another half point. He and Campbell were 2 down to Padraig Harrington and Paul McGinley after 15 holes.
'I just said, `You know what, we could possibly lose this,'' Johnson said. 'The way things were going ... it was kind of looking that way.'
Johnson looked every bit the nervous rookie when he blew a 3-foot putt that would have won the hole on 13, then again when he took the wrong line and the wrong speed on a putt on 15 that gave Europe the 2-up lead.
But on the par-5 16th, he hit what might have been the shot of the day -- a pinpoint 3-wood across the River Liffey that landed safely on the green. That resulted in an easy two-putt for birdie to trim the deficit to one. On 18, he coolly read and sank a 3-footer -- the same kind he had missed earlier -- to halve the match.
'The last three holes, he played like a champion,' Lehman said. 'He came off that 18th green a better player.'
Johnson and Henry combined to produce one point for America -- not exactly Jack Nicklaus numbers, but not bad, either.
Wetterich was the only rookie who played and didn't earn anything. He and David Toms were involved in the day's only lopsided match, a 3-and-2 loss in better-ball to Jose Maria Olazabal and Sergio Garcia, who was incredibly good all day.
'I'm eager to get back out there,' said Wetterich, who acknowledged he was nervous at the beginning. 'I think it's important to get me back out there, to let me know that he still has confidence in me to go out there and play well.'
But Lehman did not put Wetterich in the lineup for Saturday morning's better-ball matches. He also left Taylor on the bench, meaning the 30-year-old rookie will be the lone golfer on either team to not play in any of the first three rounds.
Johnson will team with Scott Verplank on Saturday morning, and Henry will go back out with Cink.
'Just a great, great day,' Henry called his Ryder Cup debut. 'I'm really proud of the way I played, Stewart and I, especially after digging a hole for ourselves at 3 down at the turn.
'To turn it around on the back was great, and hopefully it will give us some momentum for tomorrow and Sunday.'
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    What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

    Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:

    Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

    Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

    Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts

    Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts

    Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

    Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

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    Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

    By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

    Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

    While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

    The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

    So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

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    Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

    By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

    The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

    As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

    Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

    And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

    And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

    McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

    The Ryder Cup topped his list.

    Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

    When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

    “Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”

    McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

    Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

    “The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

    European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

    And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

    The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

    Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

    And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

    Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

    The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

    The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

    More bulletin board material, too.

    Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.

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    Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

    By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

    Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.

    The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.

    It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.

    The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.

    “I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”

    Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.